LaPorte citizens pack the house at a LAPAC meeting about a proposed gravel pit

PHOTO BY LIBBY JAMES. Stephanie Hansen, center, explains new access plan and Noah Dalton, foreground, LAPAC board member who recorded the meeting, pauses in his note taking.

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The residents of LaPorte and the surrounding rural area know one thing for certain.

They do not want gravel mining in their back yard. They have never wanted it and they are willing to fight to keep it from coming. Should they fail, they will fight to see that gravel mining and all the changes it brings with it make the least possible impact on their health, safety, peace of mind and the welfare of their children.

The overflow crowd at the March 20 meeting of the LaPorte Area Planning Advisory Commission was proof of that. Close to 70 people tried to squeeze into the Commission’s small meeting room set up for the ten member board to discuss a single item: A proposed sixth amendment to the Timberline Resources special application that would allow for a new access route to the proposed sand and gravel mine on the north side of LaPorte.

The application to mine 195 acres between Overland Trail and Highway 287 bypass was granted in 2005. Operations were to commence within three years and last for seven to ten years to be followed by reclamation including a large lake, a wetlands area and space for residential development.

Aggregate Industries, the proposed original operator, is no longer involved. Landowner John Donaldson is now pursuing an amendment that will allow for a new access route prior to obtaining a new operator for the mine.

Stephanie Hansen, a land planning consultant hired by Donaldson, did her best to explain the new access route using Bridget Lane off Overland Trail with visuals that only a small part of the crowd, some seated on the floor, some standing, and others straining to hear from an outer room, could not see or hear.

“We’re part of a collaborative community and we all need to see and hear,” one attendee complained. Despite an indication that the room was already overcrowded, a few more people made their way inside. Others gave up and went home.

While the LAPAC’s meeting agenda specified that discussion was to be limited to the access issue, it soon became evident that “access” involved lots of issues ranging from safety to noise and air pollution, hours of operation, the need for berms and a bicycle lane and encroachment on possibly historic areas.

Terry Waters, a certified project management professional who has lived in the area for more than three decades summarized the LaPorte citizens’ point of view.

“Even though the Applicant states that the only change to the site is the access point, the mining operation and impacts to neighbors have changed significantly (in the twelve years since the original special review was granted). There are numerous questions that cannot be answered unless the Applicant revises their Special Review to re-zone “Rural Estate” application to show where the new road will be on the site, where the Jackson Ditch crossing will be, whether the road on the site will be paved or whether additional water trucks will be needed to mitigate the longer hauling road, where new sound mitigation measures will be and whether the road is 100 feet away from the site’s wetlands.”

Ed Stoner, LAPAC board chair who conducted the LAPAC meeting, concluded by saying that he had moved out of Fort Collins to avoid the congestion of an urban area but it looked liked it was following him.

The people of LaPorte will not accept that observation lying down. On the following day many of them were planning to attend the special review hearing in Denver for a related gravel mine and concrete batch plant proposed by Loveland Ready Mix on an adjacent property.

The LAPAC board voted to recommend denial of the proposed change in the access route because they felt it to be unsafe.